There are many delightful elements in "One Good Cop" - gentle rapport between characters, little realistic details and warm touches of humanity, all of which lend depth that is too often missing from movies these days.
Unfortunately, it's primarily in the service of a routine cops-chasing-drug dealers plot that overwhelms the rest of the picture with shoot-outs, holdups and a dubious "gee, crime pays after all" ending.Michael Keaton, who furthers his reputation as one of our most versatile actors, is very good in the title role as a New York detective who runs up against drug dealers on his beat - and who gets beat up regularly as a result.
But unlike most movie policemen, who are generally divorced alcoholics with no social life, Keaton has a life to come home to. He and his wife (Rene Russo) have a very nice relationship, enlivened with many genuine touches - not the least of which is their deep, committed love for each other.
The secondary plot - which should have been the primary plot - concerns Keaton and Russo finding themselves suddenly charged with temporary custody of three orphaned sisters.
Those orphans, darling young girls - one with diabetes - give a warm, gentle anchor to the film, providing a storyline that takes "One Good Cop" out of the realm of the average action picture whenever they or their new parents are on screen together.
Keaton and Russo, we find, have been unable to have children of their own and are very taken with the kids in their care - and you will be too, since the girls are all quite charming and realistic.
This human drama is the most compelling aspect of the movie, far more moving than the fight in the elevator with street punks, the robbery of the drug dealers and the final shootout in the bad guys' apartment, however well-constructed those moments are (and they are well staged).
Unfortunately, writer-director Heywood Gould, for whatever reason, keeps taking the film back down expected formula routes. It's another case - and Disney's production companies seem particularly vulnerable to this - of a movie that has conflicting stories and attitudes, never quite settling into a tone that can carry the movie.
Too bad, because Gould shows some real talent for injecting deep feeling into what might otherwise be simplistic cliches - such as the remorse shown by a junkie after he's killed a cop, Keaton and Russo discussing why he never talks about his work, the children's grief after losing their only surviving parent and many others.
The worst aspect, however, is the ending, which, for obvious reasons, I won't give away. Suffice it to say that its message seems ill-advised, ill-timed and made me feel ill-at-ease.
"One Good Cop" is rated R for considerable violence - though not nearly as much as in, say, "Out for Justice" - along with scattered profanities, drug abuse and some implied sex.